The view from McGill University after a Quebec court rejects a legal argument to end the encampment

McGill University in Montreal on May 1, 2024. (Credit: Amanda Polese-Lovgren)

On the fifth day of anti-Israel protests occupying McGill University in Montreal, a Quebec judge rejected a provisional injunction request seeking to force their removal.

But the lawyer representing two students looking to put an end to the encampment says the process is only at the preliminary stage—with two stages left to go.

“We are trying to evaluate what’s required to continue with proceedings,” Neil Oberman told The CJN. “This is a complex matter with a variety of nuances, but the judge considered the facts and did specifically say that the protesters and the defendants have to choose their words carefully.

“This is the first time a judge has come out and said that, and we think that is the takeaway from this judgment.”

The injunction would have prevented demonstrations within 100 metres of any of McGill campus buildings in downtown Montreal.

However, in this case, the court found no urgency to intervene—and that there was no evidence of the encampment preventing access to any area at McGill.

McGill University in Montreal on May 1, 2024. (Credit: Amanda Polese-Lovgren)

Oberman previously secured injunctions prohibiting anti-Israel demonstrations from targeting Jewish institutions.

“The reality is there was a foundation in fact and in law to take the proceedings. The court did not admonish anyone for frivolous proceedings.

“One thing is for sure, this is an ongoing issue. This is a warning for other universities to be very careful, to manage their facilities properly, be respectful of people’s rights but also to make sure that security and safety are not negotiable.”

A joint statement credited to multiple encampment organizers praised the decision by Justice Chantal Masse.

“The dismissal of the injunction is a victory, demonstrating that Zionists are not above the law and rights, and that their intimidation tactics do not work. It also shows that their claims are often frivolous and that they lose when defendants are represented by lawyers, since so far all their victories have been by default or consent.

“The request was not only abusive, but violated the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.”

McGill University in Montreal on May 1, 2024. (Credit: Amanda Polese-Lovgren)

Encampment organizers are demanding McGill and Concordia University disclose and divest from all investments in companies they consider to be complicit in “the genocide of the Palestinian people.”

Protesters are also demanding the universities sever ties with Israeli institutions and grant amnesty to all protest participants. Additionally, the organizers want the universities to make a statement condemning what they call an ongoing genocide.

McGill administrators previously requested police assistance, and told participants that the encampment was unauthorized.

In response to the rejection of the injunction, Montreal police promised to analyze the decision.

“We continue to evaluate possible avenues for the future, recommending a peaceful outcome,” stated the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal.

Meanwhile, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) circulated a video showing masked demonstrators at the encampment shouting statements that included “all Zionists are racist.”

McGill has acknowledged the evidence of antisemitism at the encampment.

“The situation escalated to the point where we witnessed antisemitic comments and disturbing behaviour from some participants after the arrival of a significant number of non-members,” stated the university.

McGill University in Montreal on May 1, 2024. (Credit: Amanda Polese-Lovgren)

“McGill has made clear that the encampment violates their Code of Conduct, that a substantial percentage of individuals there if not the majority are not part of the McGill community and condemned the hateful antisemitic speech that it had evidence of,” Liberal MP Anthony Housefather told The CJN in an interview.

“I look forward to the McGill administration working with the police to remove the encampment and McGill returning to the type of school that I knew when I attended law school—where all Jewish students as well as other students feel safe.”

Eta Yudin, the vice-president for CIJA in Quebec, said there’s a “clear and urgent need to intervene quickly” based on how similar protests have escalated in the U.S.

“It is time to move beyond words and take the steps necessary to protect students on campus from the toxic hate and antisemitism,” said Yudin.

Nonetheless, a pro-Israel rally was planned for Thursday, as part of the effort to make a louder public statement in opposition to the ongoing encampment.